Respiratory Medicine
Designatory Letters: 
MB Edin 1946, MRCP Edin 1952

(Contributed by James Friend)


  • President, Scottish Thoracic Society, 1980–2
  • President, British Thoracic Society, 1984
  • Cullen Prize of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 1986
  • British Thoracic Society Medal, 2001

Andrew was the son of a Fife miner, and the youngest of six children. After attending the village primary school, he went on to become the Dux of Buckhaven High School and entered the University of Edinburgh Medical School, graduating in 1946 and receiving the Wightman Prize for Clinical Medicine. After house jobs at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, Andrew spent his National Service as officer in charge of the Field Ambulance Training Centre of the British Army of the Rhine before returning to civilian life as a general practitioner in the West of Scotland.

In 1949 he married Helen, a pharmacist and the daughter of the house where he had lodged as a student. After a spell in bacteriology at Edinburgh University he moved into respiratory medicine in 1953, having passed the membership examination of RCPEd in 1951. Working at the City Hospital and the Northern General Hospital, he joined the team of clinicians and bacteriologists led by John Crofton to control tuberculosis in an exemplary manner, subsequently adopted worldwide. He was appointed Senior Lecturer in the University Department of Respiratory Diseases in 1963, was elected a Fellow of the Edinburgh College in 1965, and continued to work at the City Hospital with John Crofton until he moved to the Royal Infirmary around 1975 to develop the respiratory service there, a position he held until his retirement in 1988.

During his career he developed a major interest in sarcoidosis and became an international authority in the field; he also contributed to the description of chronic miliary tuberculosis as a cause of unexplained pyrexia and blood dyscrasias in adults, and achieved, with John Crofton, the writing and publication of a hugely important standard textbook on respiratory diseases, first published in 1969, and progressing through three editions up to 1981 before it entered its fourth edition under Anthony Seaton. As an index of the esteem in which he was held, he was elected President of the Scottish Thoracic Society from 1980–82 and, as President of the British Thoracic Society in 1984, delivered a memorable Presidential Address entitled ‘Promises to Keep’. As a further accolade, he was awarded the Cullen Prize ‘for the greatest benefit done to practical medicine’ of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1986 (a distinction shared with other giants of medicine) and the British Thoracic Society Medal in 2001. And as a mark of the respect in which he was held, and of his integrity, he later chaired the Scottish Committee for Distinction Awards.

Andrew was not ambitious to put himself forward as a powerbroker in the world of committees – indeed I remember him once pointing to his thinning hair, saying ‘you see this laddie – it isnae ordinary attrition – every hair has been pulled out in frustration while sitting on committees’! But behind a homely and couthy approach to people and life, Andrew was guided by a formidable intellect. By far his greatest achievements related to the care of individual patients and his teaching and care for students and junior staff, and the support he gave colleagues throughout his life.

Although he was the humblest and most self-effacing of men, never seeking the limelight, his influence was immense, particularly in the example he gave to all around him. His approach to individual patients was utterly caring and his kindly and perceptive manner allowed him to take inspired case histories which made him a superb diagnostician. He was often called in by consultant colleagues to solve difficult clinical problems and his memory of his patients was prodigious. Although he and John Crofton were very different in upbringing and personality, they had a huge respect and affection for each other and worked with each other in a way that was an outstanding example to all their colleagues and junior staff, and they jointly became lifetime mentors to a host of their former junior staff. These juniors are now widely scattered throughout the world and are continually inspired by the example set by Andrew Douglas and John Crofton in tobacco control, clinical medicine, and tuberculosis management. The working to the principles exemplified by these two great teachers lives on in those former pupils.

Andrew and Helen shared a long and happy married life for almost 65 years. They were wonderful hosts who always made people welcome in their home, where Andrew was able to indulge one of his great interests outwith medicine – the growing of roses. This was a field in which he was talented and knowledgeable. Indeed, several juniors left the department clutching a gift of a pair of secateurs from Andrew, which are still treasured. He was the dearest man, a true friend to many, and a shining example to us all.